The herb garden tips below include information on their preferred growing environment as well as ways to use the herbs once you harvest them.
The Growing Environment Preferred By Most Herbs
Herb culture refers to the preferred environment that an herb likes to grow in.
Herbs are adaptable to most climates, and most soil conditions.
However, it is best, with most herbs, to avoid areas with wet soil or soil with poor drainage.
While there are some herbs that prefer moist soil and even some that will grow in less than ideal conditions, most herbs prefer well drained soil.
Herbs grow well in containers, both indoors and out, so even gardeners without a yard to plant them in can successfully grow them.
Be sure the containers have good drainage so the roots do not sit in consistently moist soil which can cause them to rot.
How to Grow Herbs
Most herbs are easy to grow from seed.
Some herbs, such as mint, do not come true from seed.
While it is true you will still get some type of mint, you might not end up with exact variety you were hoping for.
Good herbs to start from seed are sage, basil, rosemary and cilantro.
Another option is to purchase herb plants or an herb garden kit.
Many herbs are very easy to start from cuttings or by digging and dividing a larger herb plant.
Many gardeners are more than happy to share the bounty of their herb garden with others.
Garden club plant sales are another place to look for starts of herb plants.
What To Look For When Purchasing Herbs
Before purchasing herb plants, take time to to smell the leaves before you buy them.
Some herbs naturally smell stronger than others.
Choose the herbs with the strongest smell.
Most herbs prefer six hours of sun per day, however in extremely hot climates, plant herbs where they will receive afternoon shade.
For best results, sow seeds of annual herbs, such as dill and basil, every few days throughout the gardening season.
Then replant in the spring, even if you allowed the seeds drop into your garden.
Remember that birds and other wild critters will eat some of that seed over winter and some of it will just not germinate, so planting extra is the only way to make sure you consistently have a successful harvest.
Once dill is established in your garden, it is likely to pop-up all over the place.
Remove the plants that you simply cannot tolerate and leave the rest.
Butterflies love dill and it is not uncommon to see eggs or caterpillars on dill plants, so plant enough for both you and the butterflies.
Another popular annual herb is Basil, which is a great companion plant for tomatoes, and a main ingredient in pesto.
Some Herbs Are Tender Perennials
Another type of herb is a tender perennial.
While they are technically not an annual, they won’t survive outdoors once the weather gets cold.
Tender perennials, such as lemon verbena and scented geraniums, cannot withstand frost, however if they are grown indoors or in a frost-free location, they will continue to grow, and be harvestable, year-round.
It is possible to grow tender perennials indoors in a sunny window, or grow them under grow lights to keep them from becoming leggy.
Be sure to harvest them on a regular basis to help maintain their shape and size.
True perennial herbs will die back over the winter, but come back the following spring.
Perennial herbs include sage, thyme and oregano, as well as many others.
Perennial herbs come back bigger and bushier than the previous year if you were harvesting them on a regular basis.
It is a good idea to divide or propagate perennial herbs on a regular basis to make sure the plants don’t ever die out completely as sometimes happens with older herb plants.
Ways To Use Herbs
Two of the main reasons herbs are grown are for culinary use and medicinal use.
Some herbs are used to make natural dyes, or for use in craft projects.
Some gardeners grow herbs to keep pests out of their garden or even to add a touch of fragrance to their garden or craft projects.
Gardeners who have a still can distill herb plants to make essential oils.
Other potential uses for herbs include tinctures and salves.
How To Harvest Herbs
Harvest herbs early in the morning as soon as the dew has dried regardless of what you intend to use them for.
Be sure to harvest them before they flower for the strongest flavor.
Also never remove more than 1/3 of the herb when you harvest, then give the plant time to grow before making a second harvest.
It is possible to kill the plant off if you harvest too much at once.
How To Preserve Herbs
There are many ways to preserve the herb harvest.
Hanging them to dry in small bunches is the best way to preserve them.
Other preservation methods include drying them in an oven or food dehydrator.
Some people recommend drying herbs in the microwave, however I do not recommend this method.
Herbs can also be put in a jar then covered with vodka or other alcohol to make a tincture.
Yet another method is to freeze them either by themselves or in a liquid such as water, oil or broth.
Finally some people prefer to put them in jellies, jams, sauces, salt or sugar to preserve them.
If you would like to know more about preserving herbs, be sure to check out my eCourse Preserving Herbs For Winter Use!
I highly recommend the following articles:
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Year-Round Gardening
- Common Garden Herbs For An Herbal Medicine Garden
- Herb Gardening Tips For Beginners
- How To Grow Boswellia sacra
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